Description of the programme:
In 2017, Women’s Health In the North (WHIN) received funding from the Victorian Government’s Office of Multicultural Affairs and Social Cohesion to deliver the ‘Let’s Talk Money’ programme.
The programme reacts to the obstacles many refugee and migrant women face in attaining economic inclusion. These obstacles include:
- Poverty-related debt;
- Financial challenges exacerbated by low levels of English literacy;
- Cultural and gendered expectations around financial decision-making;
- A lack of familiarity with Australian financial systems (such as banking and financial products);
- A lack of familiarity with Australian legal systems (for example, tenancy rights).
The programme trains women from migrant and refugee backgrounds to become bilingual peer educators. As part of the programme, 12 peer educators received three days of training to deliver financial literacy workshops to women in their communities. Workshops were delivered in 14 different languages, including English. Three hundred and thirty women participated across 26 workshops. Workshops were delivered in various locations across the cities of Hume and Whittlesea, in the Melbourne metropolitan area.
In 2018, Bluebird Consultants were commissioned by WHIN to conduct an evaluation of the Let’s Talk Money programme. The evaluation was funded by Financial Literacy Australia.
The evaluation aimed to answer three questions:
- What was the programme’s impact upon women’s financial literacy knowledge and skills?
- What benefits did the peer education model of delivery provide?
- In what specific ways did the programme impact migrant and refugee women?
The evaluation methods included:
- Semi-structured in-depth interviews with 12 workshop participants, each taking about 30-40 minutes.
- A focus group with six of the peer educators, which lasted for about 90 minutes.
- A participant survey at four of the workshops, with baseline data collected as well as data at the end of the session. Over 60 women were surveyed in total, though the response rates varied by question.
- Observation of one of the workshops by a female member of the evaluation team.
Programme’s impact on financial literacy knowledge and skills
- Overall, the results indicated that the programme instigated practical and meaningful improvements to the women’s knowledge and skills, particularly regarding tenancy and banking.
- Building an understanding of tenancy rights was considered particularly important for newly arrived women in Australia, especially for those with refugee backgrounds.
- Participants valued basic banking information, while learning about online banking was particularly useful.
- Almost a third (31%) of women said that the educator speaking their language was the most important aspect of the workshop, while another third (31%) valued being in a women-only group.
Benefits of the peer education model
- Peer educators reported that the training they had received was very effective for preparing them to deliver workshops.
- Peer educators valued having a reliable collection of training resources that they could trust when designing their workshops.
- They said that the most important skills required for a peer educator were being able to understand the community and to communicate effectively.
- Peer educators identified their key personal achievements as increasing their self-confidence, gaining and sharing knowledge, and using the power of their role to make a real difference to other women.
Specific impacts of the programme
- Overall, there was a strong relationship between increased knowledge leading to increased confidence and a sense of empowerment.
- Four-in-five (81%) of the survey respondents indicated that the knowledge they gained through the workshop would help them make financial decisions for their family.
- The program provided a unique experience for some women to talk about money and financial matters as a group, often for the first time.
- Peer educators taught women how to identify financial abuse and were trained to handle disclosures and give appropriate referral information if needed.
Overall, the evaluation clearly showed that engaging with women in the places they naturally congregated, and using their first languages rather than English, had significant success in reaching women who otherwise may not have accessed financial literacy programs. Educating women about the benefits of online banking was seen as a particular success, while the community knowledge of the peer educators helped to foster open, trusting and inclusive environments.
Points to consider:
Methodological strengths and limitations:
- This evaluation is based on a relatively small number of participants, and therefore more information is needed before using these findings as a basis to scale-up the intervention.
- A follow-up survey after 3-6 months would have helped to evaluate any lasting change that the intervention may have had.
- While these findings are from an Australian programme, many of the learning outcomes may be transferrable to a UK context.
- The evaluation is of significant interest to people interested in delivering financial education to vulnerable groups, and in particular to those wishing to target their interventions at economic migrants and refugees.